Ask Jen: Bonding With Coworkers

Hi Jen,

I was recently promoted to a management position for the first time, and my team hasn’t quite bonded yet. What can I do to build good relationships personally and professionally? Also, I’m wondering where to draw the line on a personal level. For example, is it OK to go out for a drink with the employees I supervise?

—Managing in Midland

Dear Midland Manager,

I think it really depends on your work environment and company culture. I’ve worked for a large corporation, a few mid-size governmental organizations, a small, private institution, and now a nonprofit. In most of my work situations, I forged outside friendships that translated to positive working relationships. While your situation could be different, it’s always helpful to get acquainted with your coworkers, leading to improved cooperation and communication at work. Try these four tips:

1. Plan coffee or lunch meetings with each member of your team. It’s OK if these are working meetings. You’ll still have the chance to chat on a personal level.

2. Get out of your cubicle! A change of scenery often fosters a relaxed atmosphere, so try to get your team together in another place. This may be as simple as bringing lunch outside, or as formal as a company picnic or other activity. And while they’re not for everyone, team-building exercises can be very helpful..

3. Plan a potluck lunch or picnic with all team members. Make it monthly or quarterly and give it a theme (such as international foods or favorite family recipes). This gives a little structure to your gathering, while allowing folks the opportunity to share personal stories at their own comfort level.

4. Happy hours can be fine, but limit yourself to one drink. You could lose the respect of others if you become their drinking buddies, and that’s hard to turn around to a professional relationship. If the conversation turns toward work, keep it positive and try not to gossip.

Once you’ve gotten to know some of the personal habits, likes, and values of your coworkers, you will find that it’s much easier to collaborate and communicate with them.

Hook ’em!


Photo by OfficeNow on Flickr.


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